What Is Included in a Construction Survey?

construction survey

If you are an architect, engineer or construction manager, then you are already well aware of how much time and energy go into creating the plans for a project. You cannot afford to jeopardize a project’s timeline and risk going over budget by breaking ground on a tract of land that you do not yet fully comprehend.

A construction survey preempts problems that can occur as the result of building on land you do not understand. It provides detailed information about the project site, and is frequently utilized as the base map for all subsequent construction planning and coordination. But what exactly does a construction survey include that makes it so invaluable to professionals and their clients? Let’s dig in to what you should know before you start digging!


One of the more basic functions of a construction survey is defining the property lines in a specific area. The necessity of understanding boundaries before commencing construction is quite clear: You do not want to inadvertently build on property that isn’t owned by your client. That’s called encroachment, and it only makes life better for lawyers who specialize in civil land disputes.


According to Cornell Law School, an easement is “the grant of a nonpossessory property interest that provides the easement holder permission to use another person’s land.” In essence, an easement permits one party to access and use another party’s land for limited, specific purposes.

If a parcel of land is subject to any number of easements, there may be legal implications to building on it or materially changing it in any other significant way. By inventorying all easements that apply to the land, a construction survey provides even greater assurance that you and your client will not end up in civil court.

Underground Structures

Sewage, water, electric, cable and telephone lines are commonly buried two to three feet underground. This poses an obvious hazard during any construction project which includes excavation: One misguided thrust with a backhoe bucket can instantly cause thousands of dollars in property damage. That is why no construction survey is complete until it maps out all valuable structures buried underfoot.

Existing Buildings

The locations of existing buildings should be obvious at first glance. Still, a comprehensive construction survey will map out all of their exact locations, as that information is invaluable to contractors who must deliver large amounts of materials to and navigate heavy machinery around the property.

Lay of the Land

No construction survey is complete without a topographic survey. In addition to mapping out various artificial and natural features, a topographic survey identifies all elevation changes within a parcel of land. This is invaluable information to have while planning a construction project, and may even alert the contractor that certain structures aren’t suitable for a parcel before they break ground.

New Structures

A construction survey does not exclusively catalog a land lot’s preexisting features. It also reflects the future locations of new roads, buildings, and other structures that will be created over the course of the project. That information gives the contractor a comprehensive overview of the project while there is still time to make changes, and prevents problems that arise when structures are placed too close to one another. If you want to build a new structure or significantly modify an existing one in Minnesota, North Dakota or South Dakota, then you will need a professional surveyor to create a comprehensive land survey. You risk several expensive setbacks without one! We welcome you to contact Compass Consultants of Perham, MN today if you wouldn’t like any surprises during your next project.